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Paco and Cha-cha* do the Cascade Cream Puff 100
June 28, 2005

By Mario Correa

I had such a great time last year at the Puff that it was hard not to put it on my list of races for this year. Last year's CCP100 was the first time that I had so much fun during a race that I actually forgot I was in a race. That could be a good thing, having fun. On the other hand, maybe I wasn't racing hard enough. Last year I flew in around noon on Saturday, pre-rode part of the climb, ate, slept, raced on Sunday, sort of slept, was on my way back to LA at 6am Monday and back at the office before noon. Whew! This year I chose to drive so I could get in a couple of extra rides before/after the race.

The new bike
The new sweetness

That almost didn't happen since I was coughing all day on Wednesday and by Thursday morning I had a sore throat. Not good. I was tempted to skip the Puff, sleep all day Friday and do the local 12 Hours of Big Bear on Saturday with several of my teammates. That idea didn't last long as I just couldn't pass up riding great singletrack. I've been looking forward to it all year.

So Friday morning I had the gear and new bike, the Titus Ti Racer-X arrived two weeks prior, loaded and was on my way to San Jose to pick up Louise & Eric. Turned out that Eric couldn't make it so Lou and I headed off to Westfir alone.

Lou's also been looking forward to this race. Last year she finished three minutes off the first place woman, Stella - a three-time winner, and is ready to challenge her again. More importantly, it'll be her first race since she shattered her elbow at the eight-day Cape Epic stage race in South Africa back in April. Ouch!

What shattered elbow
What shattered elbow? I'm ready to race!

We take turns driving and swapping out MP3 players. Except for country music, Lou and I pretty much have the same taste in music and fortunately for Lou it happened to be country music appreciation week! Yeah I grew up in the sticks and the choices were Metal, Country and Metal. I like both. Anyway, we'd been driving for a while (Bay area traffic is almost as bad as LA traffic) and we we're starving by the time we got to Redding, CA. Because of the sore throat I'm thinking soup and Lou likes sushi so we decide on Japanese. The service is poor, it takes us a very long time to get our food, and we don't even get a bill! So we estimate the total and leave some cash. (Now either we're used to a faster pace and are impatient or else we were totally unlucky because a similar scenario played itself out more than once over the course of the trip.)

Next morning my throat is feeling a little better but now I'm a little congested. It's not going to stop me from racing. We get to Westfir on Saturday around noon where Sten and Lisa, a couple of Lou's friends, are waiting for us. We all go for an hour and a half spin but Lou and I split off after a while to test our legs on what will be the second climb of the race.

Lou driving
Sorry Paco this Country stuff just won't do.
Where's my MP3 player?

I run into one of my teammates, Leslie, at registration. It'll be her first time racing over 60 miles and she opted to ride a singlespeed! It must have been the name that convinced her to choose this race. After registering we head back to camp to get some rest before dinner and the prerace meeting. We need it. Lou's coughing a lot and my cold isn't getting much better. I see many familiar faces at the meeting, especially faces from the Transrockies Challenge I did last year. Back at the camp we make last minute adjustments to our bikes and chat with some Canadian friends.

4 am and I'm sitting in the truck listening to my MP3 player while Sten is trying to get the stove going. Something isn't working properly and in the process of trying to start the stove the grass in front of the truck catches fire. Now that'll definitely wake a person up! So much for saving a burst of energy for the race start... I think Cytomax has fire retardant properties. The hot breakfast and coffee is replaced with bagels, peanut butter, and water. Yum!

My original goal for this race was to shave an hour off of last year's time of 10:35 but with my cold I'll be happy to finish with the same time. (Several Puff veterans thought times for this year would be at least an hour longer than last year.) After learning all about the drug testing process and banned substances from my last race I decided not to take any medications. There won't be any testing here but I figure what the heck. It's good practice. This year I'll also be racing in the Veteran Men's category (35 to 40 something) rather than the Open Men. I thought I had no choice since I just turned 35, my mistake. Next year I'll be racing Open Men again.

I know you like my bike
I know you like my new bike Cha-cha
but I'm not racing your bike.

5 am and we're doing a little warm up. At 5:15 we're on a controlled start. It's too bad more races aren't like this. Then it's time to go but the pace isn't so fast and I'm riding off the front in third then second for a while. I'm not planning on staying up front I just want to avoid the holes in the gravel road. After a short while the race starts and riders start passing me up. The first singletrack has some hike-a-bike and is in some thick vegetation. It reminded both Lou and I of La Ruta. The first real climb of the day is 18 miles long and I'm riding alone. It reminds me of the Maple Springs climb back in Orange County but the grade is more like the Harding Truck Trail (also in OC). I get to aid station 2 for the first time, drop off the arm warmers, grab a GU flask and I'm off climbing my way to aid station 3. The real fun begins right after aid 3 -- the singletrack I've waited a year to ride. I didn't remember all the sections but it all comes back quickly once I start my decent. Last year I was humming Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey every time through the Jedi Forrest section. This time it's just, "Yeah baby!"

I'm back down at aid station 1 (mile 66) in no time and I refuel before heading over to the second and last climb of the day. I lose my concentration for a little bit as I'm remembering riding the same part of the trail last year. I get back to business after almost crashing. I catch up to the first and second veteran men riders after climbing a few miles. By the time I get back to aid station 3 at the top I have a little bit of a gap. My blissful trip down the singletrack is cut short when I notice that my rear tubeless tire is low. I decide to ride it to aid 2 and pump it up there... no point in stopping twice. That plan goes out the window when the tire keeps losing air so I have to stop and pull out the CO2. Crap! I'm on my way again and I roll through the aid station 2 slowing down only enough to grab a water bottle. A few miles before the finish my tire is low again. "I can't believe this!!" I stop and am ready to pull out the pump (I only had one CO2 cartridge) when the vet racer who was in second on the climb catches up to me. "Hey, you have CO2?... Great! Thanks!" I'm back on the bike in no time trying to catch him but he crosses the finish line 3 minutes before me. I finished second in the Veteran Men's category in 10:18 (15th overall) and I'm happy with that. I get a finishers cap and a CCP100 clock.

Mt. Shasta
A not so good picture of Mt. Shasta.

Unfortunately, I miss Lou's finish because I'm cleaning myself off with Tecnu in case the brush I fell into on at least three occasions was poison oak. She had an awesome race finishing first in the women's category, ending Stella's three-year reign, and 23rd overall. Leslie also did very well, 5th woman, for her first 100 mile race.

We swung by Bend to ride some trails before heading back to California. Bend has good breweries, different but good burritos (stop by La Parilla), and great single track (Phil's trail and the whoops). Did I mention good beer?

Thanks to the Shiggy and all the volunteers, to Titus for getting me a new bike before this race and to the great guys at The Path for building it up quickly.

Next up: Paco & Cha-cha tackle the 8-day TransAlp Challenge I'll be 1/2 of Team Fresh Air Experience and Lou will be 1/2 of Team Adidas.

Thanks to all our Warrior's Society Race Team sponsors; Shimano, Manitou, Clif Bar, the Path Bike Shop, Switchback Cyclery and Cytomax.


* aka "La Ruta Lou", "The Kobinator", "The Cycling Viking", "The Champ."

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